The show must go on

8 Nov

I started going to a drama workshop once a week at the start of September, which culminated in a performance that we made for family and friends on Wednesday. I found an ad on Instagram and I decided to give it a go.

I have don’t anything like this before and I worked out that the last time I was in a play or performance was back in 1994. Yes, I am that old!

I’ve said in a previous blog post that a few weeks into the course I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying it or not. I couldn’t deny that it was interesting and I was learning things about drama and theatre that I hadn’t even considered before. I also learnt how dedicated you have to be to create something from nothing. But it wasn’t until we started putting things together that it all started to make sense.

We didn’t have much time to put together the performance and rehearse it properly. In fact we only finished it on the day of the performance about an hour beforehand the audience began to arrive. It would have been good to have more time to perfect things but I’m starting to learn that nothing will ever be perfect.

I was so nervous about perform. Hearing the audience stirring in their seats while we were anxiously pacing around back stage was unsettling. I had a monologue to perform among other lines I had to learn and I was terrified of forgetting them.

I’m glad to say we pulling it off without a hitch! The show lasted about 20 minutes but it felt like twenty seconds! I managed to get through the whole thing without forgetting my lines!

I was completely overwhelmed with some of the comments that people made to me after the show. I wasn’t expecting people to be so kind and positive. I’m so glad I decided to join the group. I’ve met great people and learnt a huge amount!

There is another course running in 2020 with the same theatre company and I am now trying to make up my mind if I want to continue with acting or do something else. It’s going to be a hard decision to make!

Swimming training

5 Nov

Yesterday I finished a six-week front crawl course that I had to get up impossibly early for every Monday. Even though I was a strong swimmer when I was younger, I’ve never had any lessons to improve my technique. I’ve been looking for an alternative to having to join an expensive gym for the winter months when it’s too dark and cold to going running after work. When I saw the opportunity advertised, I thought it would be good to get back into swimming and see if I could make any improvements.

Before I started the course, I was nervous about swimming front crawl. I always had the feeling that as I was going up and down the lane I was splashing water all over the place and people would be wondering who let the whale into the pool.

The teacher was very good and gave us loads of information and exercises to practice in or own time and I can’t believe the difference it’s made already. It’s strange when you are trying to get better at a new sport and you’re given exercises that are designed to breakdown specific parts of the techniques so you can make small improvements. You end up doing exercises wondering how on earth they are going to help but then you put all of the bits you’ve learnt and you realise you have made significant progress.

The teacher I had was very motivating and gave lots of personal tips so it’s no wonder that I feel like I made progress. I definitely don’t feel like I’m splashing around looking like I might be half-drowning.

I’ve always struggled with breathing while doing the crawl (which sounds stupid) but it turns out that I have been breathing wrong the whole time. After doing exercises with floats and concentrating on the learnings for the lesson, I feel like I’ve fixed it. It’s more enjoyable being able to swim more efficiently and I hope that I will continue with swimming during the winter. It will give me time to go back over the exercises that we did to make sure that I don’t fall into bad habits. 

I’ve been thinking that now that my swimming has improved that it might be time to start thinking about training for a triathlon. For now I will see how I get on over the next few months with carrying on with my swimming training. swimmers-79592__340

Aloha October!

31 Oct

The months just get busier and busier. The long nights are back and once again I am kicking myself that I haven’t enjoyed the summer as much as I should have! I didn’t even go in the lake once this year which makes me so incredibly sad that I can’t really put it into words.

But I can’t complain because I have done a lot of cool stuff this month. Here is what I have been up to:

  • I’ve made some progress on my 40 Before 40 list of challenges. I visited another European country (Ukraine) this month and toured the Chernobyl exclusion zone and I have been busy reading some more non-fiction books
  • Shooting season is slowly drawing to a close but not before prize givings and end of season dinners
  • I now only have 2 exercises to finish of my online writing course which I have enjoyed – click here for a sample of an assignment I wrote if you missed it!
  • My drama workshop is also coming to a close. Next week we will have our “sharing of work” (because the word performance is far too scary) with family and friends. I’m nervous about performing a drama production in front of an audience since the first time since 1994 when I played a parent in our junior school play The Evacuees
  • I was sad to watch the last episode of Great British Back Off but it does mean that I get to have my Tuesday nights back for the rest of 2019.

November should be a little more relaxed as I will be sunning myself in the Canaries for 10 days to make sure that I get enough Vitamin D to last me for the rest of the year because, it may be Halloween today, but I really shouldn’t look like a vampire for more than half a calendar year.

Here is picture I took last weekend that really sums up October for me.

 

End of Season shooting

30 Oct

The shooting season is almost over and this weekend we have been to not one, but two, end of season dinners for shooting events that we are involved in.

On Friday it was the end of season dinner for my work’s shooting section. I know this sounds completely crazy but there are companies in Switzerland have shooting sections as well as football teams. My theory is that everyone who participates is on a secret email list and, in case of the bank becoming under attack, we would all be emailed to come to the vault and defend the money. For the record, I have no idea where any of the bank valuts are for the banks that I have worked for!

The company-wide competition took place in August and it was the first time that I had used a small caliber weapon. It’s a lot lighter than the weapons that I have shoot with before and the distance is a shorter – only 50 metres. I managed to shoot 87 out of 100 which I was over the moon with.

I came 21 out of all of the women who competed and overall I came 65th out of 195. How good is that for a first attempt? Everyone who took part got a prize. There was a huge table with all sorts of prize to choose from. The higher up the ranking you are, the better the prize you can choose.

Examples of prizes were children’s bikes, coffee machines, electric toothbrushes, Nutri bullets, Lego sets, sets of steak knives and vaccum cleaners. It was almost impossible to choose what to take. I was so glad that the waterproof rucksack that I had my eye on was still there when it was my turn to go up and choose my prize. I now need to buy a smaller laptop that will fit in it!

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Not only did we get prizes but we also got a nice 3-course meal and drinks. Whoever said it was the taking part that counts was right.

On Saturday we had the end shooting competition at the shooting club. This is my favourite competition of the year because again there are lots of prizes to be won but there are also bingo games at the end where you can win even more stuff to take home.

Overall I was pretty disappointed with my shooting at this event. I didn’t do as well as I have in previous competitions and I was hoping to beat my personal best and finally reach 70 out of 100. I didn’t.

This was another competition where everyone who competes gets a prize. There is a separate competition for this which is done in secret. You take two shots at the target and the difference between the two shots is calculated. So, if you get a 2 and a 72 then the difference is 70. The aim is to have the lowest difference. Everyone is ranked from lowest to highest. I somehow managed to get a difference of 3 and was 4th place overall. My other half came 2nd. We ended up lugging home about 6kg of various types of meat, 2 huge salamis and two big packets of smoked salmon between us. Then in the bingo game we won a huge basket of vegetables and two bottles of prosecco.

We now don’t need to buy any meat for the rest of the year (Christmas is sorted) even though we have given some away. I’m also glad that I decided to do my vegan challenge last year!

This week I have another shooting event. Back in August I took part in the regional shooting competition for women and everyone who took part will get together for a dinner to celebrate. I’m slightly nervous as the whole evening will be in Swiss German and normally have my boyfriend there to translate for me but as it’s only girls allowed I guess I will be having a free, crash-course in Swiss German as well as food.

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This is the commerative glass I got from taking part in the women’s shooting competition – it’s basically a shot glass!

40 Before 40: Challenge #35 update

26 Oct

I am now half-way through my challenge to read 40 non-fiction books. Here are the latest 10 books that I’ve read for the challenge.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

This was such an interesting book about how the actress Leah Remini was raised by her parents in Scientology, how the religion controlled her life and how she was finally able to leave the religion behind. (I am, of course, using religion in a very loose sense of the word). I found it fascinating that she managed to leave the organisation. I have seen documentaries in which people discuss that they are completely trapped and, despite terrible circumstances, they aren’t able to escape. It was a very honest account but I can imagine that for legal reasons a lot of detail was left out.

My Liverpool Story  by Steven Gerrard

I actually bought this as a gift for my brother but then he told me I’d already given it to him for Christmas so I decided to read it myself. I thought that this book was also very honest – relationships with managers and fellow players were discussed, revealing not always happy memories. There were hundreds of good quality photos in the book as well which made the book about double the size that it could have been if it just contained text.

The Things I Talk About When I am Running by Haruki Murakami

This is a relatively short book about how the author decided to leave his successful business to become an author. He is also a very good amateur runner anf triathlete. The book is about how his success in both writing and running haven’t come naturally to him and he has had to find way for him to get better at both disciplines. He makes lots of comparision between running and writing that I really appreciated, as I don’t consider myself to be a natural runner (even though I enjoy it) and I am working hard at becoming a better writer.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

There is a lot of hype about this book, especially with the increased awareness of mental health issues. It looks at modern life and how social media and technology can make us feel more disconnected than connected. The book made me realise that I am probably not as affected by modern technology than other people. I am more than happy to not have internet for a week when I am on holiday and you will never find me more happy than when I have my head in a book and I’m blocking the rest of the world out.

The Krays: The Prison Years by David Meikle and Kate Beal Blyth

This book made me realise that I constantly mix up the Kray twins and Ronnie Briggs, one of the great train robbers. This book was meant to be able the time that the twins spent in prison but there was quite a lot about how they ending up getting caught and their background. It was interest and also quite depressing to hear how much “freedom” they had in prison because of who they were and their relationships with celebrities.

A Woman’s Guide to Triathlon: The Things Men Will Never Tell You About the Sport by Eva Mauer

I have been thinking about taking part in a triathlon. I’ve even signed up to a swimming course to help improve my front crawl technique. So I was excited to read this book. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it told me that much that I didn’t already know. I mainly wanted to know about how to practice the transistion phases but there wasn’t a great deal of information on that. I also didn’t understand why it was a woman’s guide to triatholon. There wasn’t anything in the book that would have been specific to a woman and not a man. A bit of a disappointment.

Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray

I’ve never been completely convinced that men and women do behave so differently from one another but after reading this I’ve changed my mind. It was a really interesting read and a lot of the examples were so recognisable that it was scary. The book was written in the mid-90s so it was a slightly outdated. I also have another couple of books by John Gray that I want to read for this challenge.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

This is a famous book and I don’t know what to think about it. It says that thinking positively can attract what you want to your life. I completely agree that the more positive you are, the more good things will happen to you. But then wouldn’t everyone have everything that they wanted if this was true. I do think some of the exercises are worth giving a go and seeing what happens. But I think to get the full benefit you need to 100% commit to that way of thinking.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This was the funniest book I have read in a long, long time. I was roaring with laughter. It is also the most tragically heartbreak book that I have read in a long, long time as well. It is the diary of a junior doctor working on the maternity ward. You know from the start that the author ended up leaving the profession and in the penultimate chapter you find out why. I felt queasy when I read it. It was a sobering end to an account of how overworked and underpaid NHS staff are. I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.

Mindfulness Pocketbook by Gill Hasson

It was a book about how to become more mindful in daily life with exercises to help improve health, mood and attitudes among other things. I would say that 80% of the book wasn’t useful to me but there are definitely some tips and exercises that I will use.

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A weekend in Kiev

15 Oct

Over the weekend I was visited my 33rd European country – Ukraine. It seems that there are always political news stories about Ukraine and I confess that I don’t read enough to know 100% what all the implications are.

A few people gave me raised eyebrows when I mentioned where I was spending the weekend but that didn’t stop me from having a great weekend in Kiev.

Kiev city

Kiev is a very smart modern city. I loved the old style buildings from the Soviet era mixed in with the new. The city was vibrant and full of life. All of the churches we saw were incredibly stunning. We didn’t realise that it was the start of a long public holiday when we arrived and on Saturday the Main street was closed to traffic. Being able to stroll down the street of a European capitol city and enjoy music and fire-eaters is something special.

Monuments

I love that many Eastern European countries have lots of monuments and memorials to people and battles that we’re not so aware of in Western Europe. I think one of my favourite monuments was in Kiev. It was called the People’s Friendship Arch. It’s beautifully made and commemorates the 1’500th year since the city of Kiev was established.

Chernobyl

The highlight of the trip was a full day tour of Chernobyl. I haven’t seen the HBO series and before going I didn’t know a great deal about the disaster and what actually happened. The tragedy happened during my lifetime but I was only 4 so I don’t remember news reports at the time.

You can only visit Chernobyl if you have a guide because specific areas are still dangerous and there are no road signs so I can imagine it would be easy to get lost if you don’t know where you are going.

We joined a group tour and our tour guide was fantastic. She could answer all the questions we put to her and had a great sense of humour which, in a case like this, must help to keep you sane.

The videos and photos that you have seen of creepy dolls, abandoned school buildings and former inhabited places overgrown by weeds and vegetation are true. I think my overwhelming feeling was of sadness. Not only did people leave a thriving new city which had the very first supermarket in the whole of the Ukraine but they thought that they would be coming back to their homes in a few days. The land we visited will never be inhabited again because, on a long-term basis, it’s not safe for human habitation.

We were regularly checked for radiation poisoning but I felt this was more a bit of entertainment than anything else. We had a dosimeter with us the whole time that told us how much radiation we had been exposed to. For the whole day we had been exposed to the same amount of radiation as you would be exposed to on a one hour flight. Also if you were contaminated, what could you do? You can’t take a pill to change it. What’s done is done.

 

 

Food and drink

No trip away is complete without sampling the local food and drink. We stumbled upon a local microbrewery and decided to have a beer tasting which included 6 beers.

We also tried borsch – a traditional beetroot soup, khachapuri – originally a Georgian dish and delicious dumplings! Now I’m back home it’s definitely time for a few salads to compensate for how much I ate.

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Passport Stamps

Of course, one of the most exciting things about visiting a country that isn’t in the EU is that I got another two stamps in my passport.

In November I will be heading to Tenerife for some winter sun and then to Nice and Monaco, which will become the 34th country I have visited in Europe.

Being Brave

11 Oct

I’m now three quarters of the way through the online writing course that I started a couple of month ago.

The course has been very interesting and I feel like I have learnt practical things that have helped me to improve my writing. When I have finished the course I will be make the decide if I should go back to re-writing the book that I drafted earlier this year or put together a book of short stories from the material that I have written during the course.

The short story book option seems to me to be the easier option. I am still daunted by revisiting the book and, after reading it through again recently, I know that it is going to take a lot of work and revisions to get the book into good shape.

In the meantime, I thought I would be brave and share with you a short piece that I wrote on the course. We were given a 750 word limit for this exercise which isn’t a lot of words at all. I would like to add to this to make a longer piece. I haven’t shared anything that I am proud to have written since my teacher in junior school read out a short story that I wrote for homework. So this is a big thing for me.

I would be happy to hear feedback (positive or negative). Positive comments will inspire me to finally get stuck into that book and negative ones might help me to improve.

Broken Promises

You’ve done it again. You promised yourself a thousand times that today would be different. Today was the day that you would spring out of bed half an hour earlier than normal. A tightly bound coil ready to jump into life with raw enthusiasm. The snooze button is an invention for the lazy, so naturally, you stayed in bed longer.

Like your own motivational coach, you tell yourself that this is not the end of the world. The amount of calories you burn isn’t affected by how early you burn them. You will go running. Just a little later than planned.

That motivational speech was over two hours ago. In that time you’ve been lying on the sofa, scrolling through countless social media feeds, feigning an interest in photos of strangers’ breakfasts and the political scandals of a country that you would be hard-pressed to pinpoint on a map. You don’t admit it but you are wasting time, putting off the inevitable. The inevitable shortness of breath, muscle fatigue and embarrassment; more than anything you dread bumping into a neighbour, who is walking their dog, your face glowing red like the hot embers of a bonfire.

Your guilt begins to snatch at your brain, like a violin string being aggressively plucked. You reach out to put your phone on the coffee table. You exhale loudly. Now. Now is the right time.

You stuff your body uncomfortably into your sports clothing. The clothing promises that its technologically-advanced material will evaporate sweat from the skin more quickly. You felt like a professional athlete when you bought it. The purchase was meant to be a watershed moment. A moment that marked the beginning of a slimmer, healthier you.

Six months on and you have worn it only a handful of times. You now weight more. Your lack of a flat stomach is an accumulation of one poor excuse laid gently on top of another. One more slice of chocolate cake. One last beer before you leave the party. One skipped workout that soon snowballs into a fortnight of skipped workouts.

The watch fits perfectly. The watch measures your heart rate, speed, steps, calories and cadence. Your exhausted limbs and burning lungs will tell you how well or badly you have run but the watch will confirm it with downloadable data. Data that you will later pour-over, like a statistician analysing a world championship-winning performance.

The crisp, spring air brushes against your skin as you step outside. Your face feels like you have dived headfirst into icy cold water. Your lungs fill with freshness. You feel awake, alive.

You press the button on your watch. It vibrates noisily. Your personalised starting pistol. In your head, you repeat the words “left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot” over and over again. Concentrating on the words takes your mind off the physicality of the action. You wonder why it took you so long to gather up all your courage to get outside and run.

The slow repetition of the same simple action makes you feel free. You are free from all the negativity that has seeped into your life without you realising. Images of death and destruction on the news. Sharp comments from colleagues with the power to wound you. Your crippling feeling of self-doubt.

You forget that you have been resisting this from the second you woke up. The steady rhythmical beat of your feet caressing the tarmac has a musicality that only you can hear. The wind playfully whips your hair across your face. You smile to yourself as you float down the street, enjoying the moment, enjoying being free.

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